Tolerate No Truancy Program
The Tolerate No Truancy (TNT) program was initiated in Charlotte in January 1993. The program was the joint effort of then-Mayor Richard Vinroot, Councilmember (and now Mayor) Pat McCrory, Police Chief Ronnie Stone and School Superintendent John Murphy. It was developed in response to the community's rising concern over juvenile involvement in crime and the belief that young people between the ages of seven and 16 need to be in school and not on the streets where they have the potential to become either the victims or the perpetrators of crime.
Under the TNT program, police officers stop young people who are out in public during normal school hours to find out why they are not in school. If the student is clearly a truant, the officer returns him either to his home school or the nearest middle school designated as a drop-off point for truants. The student is counseled, returned to his classroom, and his parents are contacted. Students picked up three or more times are referred to juvenile court.
One of the goals of the program is to engage the community in helping keep young people in school and out of harm's way. To that end, a special TNT hotline, which rings into the Police Communications Center, was established and given a highly publicized telephone number. At the beginning of each school year there is a media event to publicize the program. Cards with the phone number are distributed to local businesses, especially those at malls and other locations likely to attract young people skipping school. Citizens who see a young person whom they believe is skipping school can call the TNT hotline and a police officer is dispatched to that location to interview the child.
The TNT program has become institutionalized in Charlotte. In the first two school years there were 2, 861 calls to the hotline and 685 students were identified as truants and returned to school. In the first year of the program, those crimes traditionally associated with young people, such as vandalism, larceny and burglary, declined by 8.3 percent. Very few young people have been picked up three times or more, causing them to be brought to the attention of the courts. Business owners have embraced the concept of the hotline because they can get a rapid police response if there are school age youths congregating at their businesses. The program is a proactive step in decreasing the number of youth who have the opportunity to commit crimes or to become victims. TNT reinforces the concept that staying in school and getting an education is a community value and is one of several steps that the school system is using in an attempt to reduce the dropout rate.
Another advantage of the TNT program is an acknowledgement of the role of the Police Department in building constructive relationships with young people and dealing with quality of life issues that are traditionally thought to be outside the realm of police work. As the Charlotte-Mecklenburg Police Department has made the transition toward community problem-oriented policing, the contacts made through TNT have given police officers the opportunity to act as positive role models for youth who in many cases come from troubled home environments. As community policing has evolved in Charlotte, the school system has made available lists of chronic truants so that community police officers can get involved with the child and his family in an effort to find out if there is some underlying reason for the truancy. In one such case, police officers learned that a student was not attending school because he did not have the money to buy decent shoes to wear to class. Shortly after, he began attending class again wearing tennis shoes donated by NBA basketball stars.
Tolerate No Truancy has been a success in Charlotte. It works in tandem with other efforts such as a nighttime juvenile curfew ordinance, Right Moves for Youth clubs for troubled youth in all Charlotte-Mecklenburg Schools, and a variety of coordinated efforts among those service providers who deal with young people to target at-risk youth for intervention before they become dropout and/or crime statistics. By sending the message that it will Tolerate No Truancy, the citizens of Charlotte are telling the youth of this community that school attendance is expected and juvenile involvement in crime must cease.
Contact: Office of the Mayor, (704) 336-2244
The United States Conference of Mayors
J. Thomas Cochran, Executive Director
Copyright ©1996, U.S. Conference of Mayors, All rights reserved.